There is an increasing recognition that psychological issues are a primary concern for cancer patients, both during and after treatment. Anxiety, depression, fear of recurrence and other psychological concerns need to be addressed to maintain quality of life.
Approximately half of all patients with cancer experience emotional difficulties.1
Adjustment disorder is a common psychological complication, with individuals suffering from depressed mood, anxiety, lack of life satisfaction, hopelessness and/or loss of self-esteem.2
Non-specific distress and anxiety are also very common in cancer patients. Distress is the sum of multiple psychological, social, and spiritual factors. If severe enough, it can interfere with the patient's ability to deal effectively with the illness, its symptoms and the complications of treatment.
Psychological issues may impact behaviors that are critical for cancer survivors.3,4 In addition, survivors who have clinical depression have a two times greater risk of death from any cause, when compared to survivors who don’t have clinical depression.5
Unfortunately, research suggests that emotional needs of cancer patients are not met as they should be. For example, a survey of bone marrow transplant survivors found that half of those who reported feeling distressed said they had not received any treatment for their emotional needs.6
If you are currently experiencing anxiety or depression after a cancer diagnosis, don't put on a "happy face" if you don't really feel this way. Share your concerns with your cancer care team.
Connect with others who listen and can help with the practical aspects of dealing with cancer. Asking family members and loved ones for this kind of support may help reduce your distress and the distress of those who care about you.
Consult with your doctor before commencing an exercise program. As much as possible, exercise regularly for at least 150 minutes per week at moderate intensity.
Try different behavioural techniques to relieve anxiety and depression, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
Engage in activities you really enjoy. Creative arts and music are good examples.
Go see a clinical psychologist or counselor.
Take time for spiritual reflection and prayer.
As more research is completed, there is an increasing recognition that psychological issues are primary concerns for cancer patients during and post-treatment. Several interventions have been shown to alleviate psychological distress, anxiety and depression.
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